Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., a Harvard-trained brain scientist, woke up one morning with a sharp pain behind her left eye. She tried to continue with her morning routine, but one by one, her left brain lost its functions. Like dominoes, she lost the ability to walk normally, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. In My Stroke of Insight (A Plume Book), Dr. Taylor describes her thoughts and progressively limiting reactions as she realized she was having a stroke.
Although her right hemispheric brain worked correctly, it was limited in what it could perceive from the non-functioning left brain. Dr. Taylor knew she needed help, but she no longer had the capability to figure out how to get it. Calling 9-1-1 did not occur to her. She did think of calling a doctor. She had gone to a particular doctor for the first time six months prior. Although she couldn’t remember the doctor’s name, she did remember the design, a right brain perception, on the doctor’s business card. Knowing it was imperative she receive help quickly, she clumsily pawed through her stack of business cards until she found the correct one. But then she found she could not discern numbers, she only saw unidentifiable squiggles. She painstakingly matched the squiggles on the card with those on the phone pad and managed to dial the number. Much to her dismay, when the doctor’s office answered, her voice came out garbled and she could not be understood. She then called a co-worker, after finally remembering the telephone number at work because it sounded like a rhyming jingle, again a right brain activity. When her colleague answered, he recognized the sound of her voice, even though he couldn’t understand the words. He immediately came to her assistance.